Jeff Christopherson on 10 Characteristics of a Future Church Planter, Part 2

Jeff Christopherson is a church planter, pastor, author and Missiologist at the Send Institute – an interdenominational church planting and evangelism think tank.

Last week we reflected on the first five of ten shifts that are mission critical for those engaging in the missionary work of church planting in North America in locales that are essentially bereft of Christian memory. They were:

  1. A Different Filter: From Entrepreneurial Übermensch [1] to Apostolic Catalyst
  2. A Different Frame: From Sunday-centric to Christ’s Body
  3. A Different Fascination: From Ecclesiastical Supremacy to Kingdom Submission
  4. A Different Focus: From Drafting Free-Agents to Developing Disciple-Makers
  5. A Different Family-Tree: From Replication to Multiplication

This week we will continue this conversation by focusing on five other key changes we must make if we want to see movement.

6 – A Different Force: From SoloClerics to Co-Vocational Teams

The mission force that is deployed in the vast majority of planting situations is a solo lead planter with a big heart for Jesus’ mission. As this planter arrives on the mission field, the financial realities soon overwhelm the romantic missionary notions that once preoccupied his imagination.

The pressure is on. Because of this, the unstated goal often degenerates into building a worship service following that can pay a salary before the start-up supporters move on. Quite understandably, all romantic missionary notions will be flushed in order to compete for the paying customers. After all, there is a family to feed and bills to pay.

As secularity continues to erase Christian memory from much of the landscape within North America, the possibilities of gathering and assembling displaced evangelicals into a financially sustainable professional startups will become a less-likely reality for most. Future church planters will retain their missionary imagination by forming co-vocational [2] teams around the functions and mission of the Body of Christ instead of the tasks and expectations of a weekend worship service.

7 – A Different Fluency: From Christendom to Secularity

When church planters model their ministries after respected and influential evangelical leaders, they often create unnecessary distance between the gospel message and those who live lives with no connections to the subculture of Christendom.

Messaging that has been tuned for the ears and cultural sensibilities of evangelicals finds little intellectual or emotional reception from the religiously uninitiated. With the lack of gospel penetration into the larger culture, the cultural divide in North America will only deepen as the church continues to behave like it existed in 15th-century Christendom rather than its closer contextual parallel of the first century which it now finds itself.

Future church planters who thrive will envision their upcoming church, not singularly among the previously evangelized, but predominantly among the community that they are trying to reach.

The current culture of secularity is requiring that every belief system, including secularism, must prove its authenticity to be valid. As competing faith systems are forced to demonstrate the veracity of their claims, genuine Christ-followers have all the advantages. Church planters who exchange clichéd evangelical-speak for a more compelling display of Christ in authentic community may find great appetite amongst Kingdom-seeking, yet religiously disconnected neighbors.

8 – A Different Fidelity: From Doctrinal Precision to Spiritual Authority

Theological fidelity in Christendom often has much more to do with rehearsing and articulating accepted doctrinal norms than it does in allowing those same stated positions to transform their keeper’s lives. This aberrant notion of faithfulness has birthed two problems within evangelicalism.

First, it has produced a class of leader whose theological hubris would rival Jesus’ greatest opponents. With a narrow orthodoxy (that often includes little orthopraxy) these new leaders expend enormous energy on differentiating themselves from their spiritual inferiors with little humility left for mystery.[3]

Second, this academic approach to theology contorts biblical belief into a convenient noun (something that we own) rather than a verb (something we do). With this, Christian fidelity is often reduced to a codified statement that is neither lived, nor truly loved.

Future church planters that persuasively bring the gospel into secularity will move beyond the arrogance of theological posturing toward the humility of simple belief. In the new religious economy brought about through secularity, few are asking the question, “What is truth?” Increasingly, the deep question within people’s hearts is, “What will work?” And this is the spiritual intersection for a church planting team to reveal the Kingdom of God.[4]

After all, “The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (I Cor. 4:20). And so, church planters go about the mission of Christ with the spiritual authority of their King that rightly combines proper doctrine and the life-transformation that doctrine is meant to produce (Matt. 28:19-20).

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Source: Christianity Today

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